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Tag Archives: thomas merton

The Abbot’s Shoes Seeking a Contemplative Life

The Abbot’s Shoes: Seeking a Contemplative Life by Peter Robertson (Kindle $2).

This is Peter Robertson’s story, set in New Zealand. He joined the Cistercians in New Zealand at Kopua Monastery, in the early ’70s was when I first started going to the monastery (I am now a Cistercian Associate of Kopua). Vividly descriptive, it paints a picture of a time when Cistercians were riding on the wave of Thomas Merton, and the time of Charismatic Renewal. I will not spoil the story – I love the way Peter writes, questions form in the reader’s mind which are only answered little by little as the story unfolds.

There are a couple of photos, but this is not a history book. I cannot distance myself (I know the monks he mentions; I know what the abbey looks like) to see whether the descriptions give a clear image to those who haven’t been there. Certainly the descriptions, to me, seem wonderful impressionist paintings.

Peter mentions many of my favourites: Carthusians, Thomas Merton, Charles de Foucauld

This book is only available digitally (Kindle). I wonder if it might be possible to use one of those systems where one orders the book and it is then printed off and sent to you (that is how, for example, The Bible Through the Seasons is published). I also wonder if some who do not use a Kindle (or Kindle app) would read it as a PDF. Or even straight on the web as a part of Peter’s website (he also has a facebook page and twitter profile).

[Updated: I have received this note from the author:
the little book does have a “portal” at:
that gives people the opportunity to download via ways other that just kindle]

I only found one shortcoming – the book is liberally littered with wonderful quotes with numbers connected to end notes. (On my kindle app at least) it can be very difficult to check where a quote is from. Not a big deal – might the notes have been better at the end of each chapter?

As I said, I do not want to spoil the story – but let me say that this is not just a book about Cistercian life (wonderful as it is for that – and I regularly think there should be more history/biographical books of life and church around and before this time). This is a book encouraging (facilitating?) contemplative life in everyday, ordinary life. Peter regularly uses the phrase “live to pray” – this can be as true for us outside monastic walls as within.

I encourage you to read this book. It isn’t long (in some ways it is a string of brief, connected essays). I couldn’t put it down.

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Dialogue with Mindfulness

Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama 1968
Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama 1968

It makes great sense to me that monasticism spearheads inter-faith dialogue. Comparing different religions, different faiths, different approaches and understandings of living, can too easily degenerate merely to observable practices (I cross myself left to right, you cross yourself right to left…)

Such real dialogue, I suggest, is better at the level of spirituality. And I think a similar dialogue can take place between those committed to the spiritual journey and those who practice mindfulness. Mindfulness practices are regularly drawn from religious disciplines. Mindfulness even uses religious language – particularly Buddhism, which seems to be more politically correct amongst those who might even denigrate other faiths (eg. “A university wellbeing retreat is helping business executives find their inner zen through mindfulness and meditation.”

In recent posts on mindfulness, I have been underscoring that spirituality and mindfulness practices may be the same, but the intention of the person is different. (“The [mindfulness] course helped a leader make their business more profitable.”)

But I suggest there may be a crossover. Just as the side-effects for the spiritual pilgrim following contemplative disciplines of silence may include deeper peace, joy, creativity, so the side-effect of the one practicing mindfulness may be deeper union with God.

There is much room for dialogue (not least beginning with what one means by the word “God”).

I encourage dialogue between those who follow different practices for the same purpose, or similar practices for different goals.

What do you think?

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Centenary of the Birth of Thomas Merton

Merton Family

On Saturday the Christchurch Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society, it being 100 years since the birth of Thomas Merton, organised a day of Prayer and Pilgrimage. After gathering for a cuppa, welcome, and morning prayer, we set off for the Carmelite Monastery of Christ the King for quiet time and Midday Prayer with… Continue Reading


Thomas Merton 100 Years

Thomas Merton

This Saturday, 31 January [feast day of that other well-known saint 🙂 ], it is 100 years since the birth of Thomas Merton. He is one of the most-influential spiritual writers of recent times. He was born in Prades, France, of a Kiwi father and American mother. His dad went to the school where I… Continue Reading


Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

Today is the feast of Thomas Merton who died 46 years ago. Next year, 31 January, it is 100 years since his birth. He is one of the most-influential spiritual writers of recent times. He was born in Prades, France, of a Kiwi father and American mother. His dad went to the school where I… Continue Reading


Thích Nhất Hạnh

Thomas Merton and Thích Nhất Hạnh

Thích Nhất Hạnh, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet, and peace activist, living in the Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in the South of France, last week experienced a severe brain haemorrhage and was brought to hospital where he remains in critical but stable condition. A litany for peace of his is… Continue Reading

25 Books Every Christian Should Read

25 Books Every Christian Should Read

25 Books Every Christian Should Read

25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics This is not a book review. I don’t own this book – I will think about buying it. I was asked by an e-friend, in relation to this list of 25 books every Christian should read: how many have I read, or… Continue Reading